Elsevier logoHeightened risk for heart disease and stroke due to elevated cholesterol levels is known to all. Even strokes leading to risk for depression and abnormal blood lipid levels boosting the risk of depression in the elderly is already determined. In the latest study, French investigators claim that the association between increased cholesterol and depression may be complicated.

In the course of the study, a large population of elderly men and women aged 65 and above were monitored. For over a seven year follow-up period, the investigators analyzed the study participants. Symptoms of depression and measurements of the volunteers’ lipid levels were examined throughout the study. A link between depression and low levels of the ‘good’ form of cholesterol, called as high density lipoprotein (HDL) was ascertained in women.

Dr. Marie-Laure Ancelin, corresponding author for this study, alleged, “Our results suggest that clinical management of abnormal lipid levels may reduce depression in the elderly, but different treatment will be required according to sex. LDL-C serum level seems to be an important biological marker in men, with a narrow range for normal functioning. Above this range, cardio- or cerebro-vascular risk increases and below it, there is increased risk of depression.”

Such disruptions in cholesterol levels may elevate the risk for vascular disease and stroke, by enhancing their risk for developing lesions in their blood vessels such as atherosclerotic plaques. On the contrary, link between depression and low levels of the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol, known as low density lipoprotein (LDL) was registered in men. The correlation was probably more true for men with a genetic vulnerability to depression due to a serotonin transporter gene.

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, affirmed, “These new data provide yet another important reason that doctors and patients should monitor and regulate cholesterol levels carefully, through a combination of diet and medication.”

Low LDL levels may protect from developing cardiovascular diseases or strokes, but simultaneously threatens mental health. The authors suggest that controlled levels of HDL and LDL can help restrict depression in the elderly. They further caution accurate management of LDL levels in men.

The study is published in Biological Psychiatry.